Nelson Mandela, the great leader and statesman of South Africa once stated: “Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long range missiles. It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examinations by the students…..the collapse of education is the collapse of a nation.”
Our society has always been ridden by the dogmatic belief that having a Government Job entails a superior life filled with status and honour. Each year we witness a growing population of graduates and in-service employees appearing for Competitive Examinations with the utter belief that something miraculous would take place and they would be selected for the much sought after government jobs. But surprisingly, people would not even dream of sending their children to government schools or refer any of their family members or relatives to government run hospitals either. It is quite hypocritical that people who worship government jobs vouch so much for their children to be admitted in a private school! This only proves and much too strongly that though government jobs are lucrative the services provided by government schools and hospitals are way below expectation. In short, the government schools in Nagaland have become redundant over the course of time.
If education fails, the entire structure of governance fails with it. Since the inception of the State of Nagaland, the School Education Department has been struggling to find a cure for the malady of poor quality in Government Schools. Each year a lion’s share of the State’s Budget is allocated for the Government Schools. But we all know where these funds end up as it is very well reflected in the poorly constructed sheds that house the Government Schools. It is also true that most of the government teachers remain on leave for most part of the months and allow unfair means during the examinations. In many of the Government Schools, we find that the number of teachers posted exceed the number of students. It is a common practice for many government teachers, especially those who are posted in remote areas, to hire a substitute who may not have the required qualifications.
In sharp contrast to this, the Private Schools have always ensured that the quality of education is never compromised. In most private institutions, students enjoy all the necessary facilities with minimal fees as compared to schools outside the State. It is observed that often private schools have more qualified and experienced teachers. They try and give attention to each and every student. Certain private schools in our state have introduced lot of innovative practices. This enhances their skills and prepares them for the tech savvy world of the 21st century. At the same time, attendance of teachers is taken every day and the administration makes sure no teacher takes undue advantage.
When it comes to Board examinations, each year, be it the NBSE, CBSE or ICSE, the private schools have always proved better and much superior in all the statistical records of the education department. The numerous laurels and shining Board results are made possible only due to the dedicated efforts of the private schools. These Private Schools toil hard even in the remotest places where the Government School Teachers are unwilling to stay due to poor connectivity, bad road conditions, backwardness of the area or lack of proper infrastructures. But the hard work and sacrifices done by the dedicated private schools are often forgotten.
Sadly, though the contribution of private schools in development of education sector in Nagaland has always been immense, the State Government has not given due recognition to those private schools which have brought Nagaland in the map of education in India and the International sphere. Rather, the Private Schools which cater to more than 75% of students in the State, are always sidelined.
It is high time that the conscious citizens of the Naga society take up the challenge of recognizing the efforts of the Private Schools in the betterment and development of the State. There is no denying the fact that the Private Schools have given their best in ensuring that the quality of education reaches the expectations of the State Board as well as the society at large. The government, especially the School Education Department should start recognizing this very effort of the Private Schools and stop antagonizing them for petty reasons. Many great personalities of Nagaland have become great not only by their personal efforts but due to the simple fact that they had been molded and educated in some Private School where their efforts were amply recognized and provided with the much needed counseling and care.
Today, the private schools across Nagaland are the highest job providers, second only to the State Government. But sadly enough, after molding and shaping the students right from their nursery level to their higher secondary level, by putting all resources to use including the hard labour and pain that goes with it for their holistic upbringing of creating a vast quality human resource for the State and the Nation, the entire credit for the human resource development is either taken by the State or Central Governments or few NGOs who act as job agencies. Thus, these so called job agencies or job providers walk off with the laurel and greater share of the cake along with the icing, leaving not even a crumb of credit or gratitude to the Private Schools. The job agencies, who work hand in glove with the government departments for some awards and laurels, have to retrospect and make a thorough analysis why there are so less or even no alumni from Government Schools whom they have been able to provide with job opportunities. This is due to the fact that the much needed skill formation required for all basic job, that these job agencies provide in the garb of placement opportunities, are formed at the school level which, obviously, only the Private Schools are providing. Provision of skills-development in Government Schools is a far-fetched dream. The so called job providers/agencies must therefore accept the fact and recognize the role of the Private Schools who mold and prepare the youth resource required for these job agencies to provide jobs and receive accolades for something which others have done for them. Well, it is quite easy for anyone to pick up a diamond and polish it and sell it but it is very difficult to turn coal into diamonds. This daunting task is being done only by the Private Schools.
This dogmatic attitude and utter negligence have dampened the morale and spirit of many credible and good private schools in the State. Moreover, the Private Schools and their Managements are never made stakeholders of important discussions and policies of the Education Department or other such legislations primarily meant for the education sector. Is it because there is no contribution of the Private Schools in terms of financial benefits that fills up the individual coffers of the leaders or is it because they feel threatened and overshadowed by the Private Schools because of the latter’s contribution at the National level, primarily to raise the literacy level of the State? Or is there a manipulation of the State’s Literacy Rate at the National level whereby the State Government gets all the credit by blending both the government as well as the private schools results and the literacy rates to get more financial grants by utilizing the efforts of the Private Schools alone? Logically put, why should the State Government receive all the funds without any contribution when it comes to the output of the annual Board results pass percentage where many Government Schools register zero pass percentage? What if the Central Government makes a policy whereby State Governments start receiving educational funds according to performance of the government schools segregated from the results of the private schools?
It is also astounding that the entire fleet of Private Schools in Nagaland runs only with meager self generated funds, mostly through fees, which is equivalent to 10% in comparison to the entire budgetary allocation given to Government Schools each year. Even a layman will be able to judge the huge discrepancy in utilization of funds, whereby Private Schools are able to cater to more than 75% students of the state with mere 10% financial resource raised by themselves which hardly make ends meet and also without any assistance from either the State or the Central Governments and that too with so much of quality and yeoman service to the State of Nagaland; but on the other hand, even with 100% budgetary allocation of several Thousand Crores of Rupees each year poured in so lavishly by the State Government, the Government Schools are not even able to cater to a quality education even for less than 25% of the total students in Nagaland. Despite all the monetary benefits and exorbitant salaries given to Government Schools and Teachers they always fail to outdo the Private Schools in all fields of activities including examination results, infrastructure or other extra-curricular facilities.
The Government of Nagaland should come up with a drastic step to put to action a plan whereby the public funds are not wasted in vain but put to more judicious use. Instead of pouring all the public money unnecessarily in non-productive government schools, it should rather be the honest endeavour of the government to provide more grants in aid to all Private Schools in the State out of the budgetary allocation that the government doles out exclusively for government schools each year. If there is any benefit that is going to take place out of the huge allocation of funds and resources for government schools, it will be towards the construction of mansion like buildings belonging to some School Education Department Officials or some Headmasters or some government teachers who have already reached the zenith of prosperity in Nagaland. Therefore, the Government should dwell on this matter with due earnestness and use some much needed conscience in the utilization of funds and channelize it properly so that the benefit of government resources only to performing government as well as private schools which have always ensured the development in the quality of education for Nagaland. Also the Teachers’ Awards that are given at State and District Levels every year is in sheer favour of the Government Schools without much and proper verification and just on the mere basis of recommendation. It is really baffling to note that though there is no effort by most Government Schools in the growth of education, more than 80% of government teachers are selected each year for the Awards. There should be a conscious effort on the part of the Education Department towards bringing about equity in the criterion of selection of awards for the Government and the Private Schools. How can the Private Schools providing genuine and quality education to more than 75% of students across the State be sidelined for such Awards?
In recent times there has been much criticism from various quarters about the fees collected by Private Schools. But when we make a logical analysis, where will the managements of Private Schools pay reasonable salaries to the private teachers in lines with the salaries received by the government teachers who are getting hefty amounts despite their minimal efforts in comparison to the private school teachers? Whatever the criticisms about Private Schools and their fees, the truth remains that they are surviving not because of the fees alone, but due to the fact that the proprietors or mission-aided societies have supplementary businesses, ventures, missionary funds and various other assistances which aids in the development of the private schools. Some of the private schools have been forced to shut down because of lack of incentives or any supplementary or alternative businesses to keep the schools up and running. The Private Schools, on the other hand should in fact receive true patronage and recognition as they have put in their own resource and effort in bringing about educational benefits to so many students from varied backgrounds. In sharp contrast some organizations and agencies receive so much of appreciation from all corners, despite the fact that they have been able to achieve the few laurels that they may have achieved only due to some governmental funds and schemes; whereas, the Private Schools go unrecognized despite their entrepreneurial capabilities and service for the mankind.
Moreover the parents of students studying in private schools should be immensely grateful that their children are receiving quality educational facilities in the private schools in Nagaland itself without having much tension for their children’s welfare and without spending undue extravagant money for sending them to private schools outside the State. The educational facilities provided by some of the Private Schools in Nagaland are at par with some of the best schools outside the State. Also making the children pursue their studies in Nagaland saves them from undue harassment and dangers that they might be exposed to while pursuing their studies away from their home state in hostile conditions while also giving the parents ample opportunity of monitoring their children’s performance and upbringing without any fear, stress and tensions about their children’s whereabouts. This is due to the fact that in recent times there have been many alarming cases of children ruining their lives in the metropolitan cities by keeping their parents in the dark that they are studying in good schools, whereas the truth is that they get carried away and resort to immoral acts driven by the colourful city life filled with night clubs and bars. Such children come back to Nagaland and become misfits as they become alienated from their culture and society as they have been exposed to an all together different culture and mindset when they had been pursuing their studies outside the state and by the time they become oriented to the Naga society it becomes too late. It is therefore always desirable that parents who are permanently settled or working in Nagaland educate their children within the State itself till their Higher Secondary levels or for simple graduation unless and until they have a desire of sending their children for technical and professional courses.
In this regard, it is also very important to take note of the fact that many private schools in Nagaland offer unsolicited fee-concessions and special benefits and scholarships to many deserving students and also students from marginalized families, not forgetting the benefits that go into educating the wards of the school staff members, in terms of 50% or even 100% concessions in fees. To make matters worse, private schools suffer from non-payment of fees by many defaulting parents. Again, the Private Schools have different fee structures depending on the kinds of facilities and faculty provided. Therefore, critics must know fully-well that it is at the sheer discretion of an individual to choose any school according to one’s educational needs and a polished up-bringing. Thus, it is pertinent that those who blindly criticize the private schools should look into facts and make a thorough analysis before making wild accusations.
Helen Keller rightly said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision!” As the future generations of a glorious culture and one of the most culturally rich States in India, let us not lose sight of our immediate goals and let us dwell in the truth with a vision for the equitable growth and development of the entire Naga society.
Today we are in a democratic society – we are free to speak. However, the vast majority maintain silence despite the fact that they tend to disagree with violence, corruption, nepotism, etc. that abounds in our state and elsewhere. Thus, our state, society and perhaps our homes suffer because of our silence. There are many agencies, business cartels, land grabbers and stockists in our State who monopolises the economic benefits and hoard goods and indulge in adulteration too. They have organized themselves mainly for their own selfish goals or motives and not for the greater benefit of the citizens. Many of the individuals are utilizing these organizations as spring boards for their individual success. These organizations also act as lobbies in the government and bring about senseless and autocratic rules just for their own benefits and also indulge in blanket bandhs, thus disrupting normal lives. The rampant corruption, unstable prices, deteriorating education & health systems and nepotism in our society is a direct fall out of these kinds of agencies and organizations which have been thriving due to the patronage of few individuals. If we have to make ourselves accountable and truly educated, we have to make a collective effort on all fronts to root out such corrupt practices and work unitedly and unselfishly like our forefathers, so that our Naga society can move forward in the right direction towards peace, progress and prosperity for all.
As Mother Teresa has rightly put, “The hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray”, let us all collectively work towards helping the young minds of our society and bring about equitable development of all sectors without any ‘isms’ and corruptions. Let us strengthen our education system in such a way that it reflects our rich heritage.
The motive behind penning down this article is not to antagonize any individual, organization or the government. The main aim behind it is to bring to the fore what is pertinent, that is to build a society devoid of lacunas in education, to change the mindset of the society towards the Private Schools and most importantly to tell everyone that in whatever capacity or field that we work in, whether in government or private sector, we must uphold the very basic ethos of humanity because ultimately we are all working towards the betterment of the human society and our upcoming generations.
Let us all remember that leadership is not only about holding a status or position but about performance, contribution and responsibility which is executed honestly and without any bias. In conclusion, let us all open our eyes to the fact that no person was ever honoured for what he received; honour has always been the reward for what one gave.
Dr. Andrew Ahoto
All Nagaland Private Schools’ Association (ANPSA)
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